debbie downer never gets asked to the movies.
January 23, 2011 11:17 AM   Subscribe

I need non-depressing short films to show my class each week.

I teach an English class and each Monday throughout the semester, I post short indie films (usually from YouTube) for my students to discuss on a class forum/discussion board. The films are typically about 10-15 min. long -- I can't see my students wanting to spend more time than that one a rather minor, weekly assignment.

Last time I assigned this activity, my students mentioned that the films were too depressing. They have a point --- many films dealt with difficult social issues, depicted dystopian societies, or showed the darker side of humanity. It's not like I chose these films on purpose... this just seems to be a running theme for indie shorts.

Last week, I posted a non-depressing film and a lot of students expressed how glad they were that the film didn't make them sad/melancholy/etc after watching it and said they'd like to see more like it.

So, I'm looking for suggestions for films with a lighter, more optimistic tone. Surely not all indie films are all "doom and gloom"?

I'd also like for the films to be somewhat thought-provoking and well-done. The reason I started assigning these films was because I felt that it would give the assignment more value than "write about your opinion concerning [insert social issue here]". With films, they'd have to exercise their powers of interpretation and learn to express themselves.

Links to online content would be appreciated as opposed to dvds/etc, since my students will typically be watching from home/dorm.

posted by joyeuxamelie to Education (31 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
It's an hour, but on youtube it is broken into 10 minute segments:

The Natural History of the Chicken.

It's a compilation of short stories that show chickens and how they interact with people, how they have typically "human" qualities, etc. I love it! And very positive, mostly.
posted by bolognius maximus at 11:22 AM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

How about This is John the first short film from the Duplass Brothers. The subject matter is insanely trivial (setting the outgoing message on your answering machine) but you could easily spin this into an essay on the importance that we place on our appearances to others or perhaps unrealistic expectations of perfection.
posted by mmascolino at 11:24 AM on January 23, 2011

Obvious Child is a charming 20 minute film on abortion.
posted by apophenia at 11:32 AM on January 23, 2011

The Lunch Date. Won an Oscar for Best Short Film, Live Action.
posted by sharkfu at 11:37 AM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Logorama won an Oscar.
posted by mmascolino at 11:40 AM on January 23, 2011

Validation is a great short film for this.
posted by 47triple2 at 11:48 AM on January 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

TED talks.
posted by spasm at 11:49 AM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

You can use the Prelinger Archive to discuss the difference in high-school social issue discussion from half-a-century ago. The Coronet Instructional Films subcollection is perfect.
posted by griphus at 11:49 AM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Check out the National Film Board of Canada site. Tons of good stuff there.
posted by zadcat at 11:57 AM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

All the Great Operas in 10 Minutes
posted by mefireader at 12:02 PM on January 23, 2011

The Wallace & Gromit short A Grand Day Out is about 23 minutes, but I'd imagine it'd hold the interest of most high school/college students.
posted by lisa g at 12:08 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I should have mentioned, although it talks about how operas are full of murder, suicide, rape, incest, prostitution, etc., it's quite light-hearted. :)
posted by mefireader at 12:09 PM on January 23, 2011

Nthing Validation. I love that one so much! It makes me cry.

And this is a bit short, but 200 Years, 4 Minutes - The Joy of Stats is very uplifting in a very factual sort of way. It shows how all countries 200 years ago were 'sick and poor' and how far we've come. There's still a lot farther to go, but this shows you a definite positive trend.
posted by Caravantea at 12:12 PM on January 23, 2011

This isn't as specific as you might like, but how about browsing the NFB website? Here's the search results for the most popular documentaries available for online viewing, made between 2000-2010, for example.
posted by Cuke at 12:15 PM on January 23, 2011

What about How to Be Alone?

(Sorry for the dumb link - am on a phone.)
posted by sugarfish at 12:49 PM on January 23, 2011
How to be alone
(sorry phone not liking links)
posted by saragoodman3 at 12:52 PM on January 23, 2011

I don't know how thought provoking it is, but Multiple Sidosis makes me all kinds of happy.

Despite the slight similarity of username, the Youtube poster is not me. That's entirely coincidental.
posted by phunniemee at 12:55 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pirates & Pills isn't depressing -- in fact, it's been in a lot of kids festivals according to stuff I've read about it (I saw it at a local showing and was pleasantly surprised because I went to school with the woman who plays the mother) -- though it's light, it also would give them something to write about.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:00 PM on January 23, 2011

In an odd piece of synchronicity, I actually spent this morning choosing an NFB short animation to show my English class tomorrow for discussion. Here's what I've come up with:

From the NFB Oscar Winners playlist (this one won the 1979 Oscar for Best Animated Short): Every Child, "Eugene Fedorenko's animated short about an unwanted baby who is passed from house to house until he is taken in and cared for by two homeless men. The film is the Canadian contribution to an hour-long feature film celebrating the Year of the Child. It illustrates one of the ten principles of the Declaration of Children's Rights, that every child is entitled to a name and a nationality."

It's only 6 minutes and change, very short but charmingly animated and fairly open-ended--I think there would be lots for your students to discuss.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:05 PM on January 23, 2011

This American Life had (has?) a series on Showtime. Some of them are depressing but they're great for studying storytelling. I think most of them are 30 min long.
posted by amanda at 1:05 PM on January 23, 2011

I sometimes show RSA animates in class. There are quite a number of them and they are pretty much universally excellent.
posted by MighstAllCruckingFighty at 1:32 PM on January 23, 2011

These 2 sisters, Abby and Brittany have always fascinated me. Part of a longer documentary.
posted by BoscosMom at 2:16 PM on January 23, 2011

Full of LIfe is a prize-winning short film about an elementary school class in Japan and my favorite.
posted by Anitanola at 2:16 PM on January 23, 2011

The National Film Board of Canada has a lot of short films on line and reasonably good search parameters.
posted by thatdawnperson at 2:48 PM on January 23, 2011

Part of a cinema course I had last semester dealt with having to analyze several different short films. From that class I highly recommend, New Boy which is about a boy from Africa who enters a school in Ireland. Its a bit over eleven minutes.

I also really like this animation about an astronaut who helps to unite two moon pimples; however its only five minutes, its called Crater Face.

Finally, I ended up doing that paper on Six Shooter. However, Six Shooter is about half an hour and not a happy film. You could classify it as black comedy.
posted by graxe at 4:22 PM on January 23, 2011

Try Dreams. It's a collection of eight short pieces that are all beautiful in their own way. Based on the dreams of Akira Kurosawa.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 4:34 PM on January 23, 2011

Here's a better link.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 4:40 PM on January 23, 2011

Traffic Warden is a cute little 10-minute romantic comedy that manages to tell a story without using a single line of spoken dialogue; it's all physical action and some occasional sight gags with incidental print "commentary" (i.e., a headline on a newspaper as a punning comment on the action of the film). It also features a "before he was famous" David Tennant, so you can capture the attentions of any hardcore Whovians as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:03 PM on January 23, 2011

A little longer than you are looking for - but MOUTH MUSIC is fascinating.

There are plenty of discussion provoking materials (including as the film above) at
posted by cinemafiend at 6:11 AM on January 24, 2011

Claude Lelouch's "C'├ętait un rendez-vous" is a hell of a ride. It provoked a lot of discussion when it was posted on the Blue; your class wouldn't lack for things to talk about.
posted by Iridic at 8:13 AM on January 24, 2011

One of my favorites: 14e Arrondissment from Paris Je T'aime.
posted by mike_bling at 1:08 PM on January 25, 2011

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